Can Dams Increase the Risk of Malaria?

Friday, September 11, 2015

Living close to a dam could increase the risk of contracting malaria, a new study conducted in sub-Saharan Africa has found.

The research looked at infection rates among people living close to 1,268 dam reservoirs, and found that about 15 million people reside in "risk areas" — fewer than 5 kilometers away from a dam.

By comparing the difference in the number of cases for communities further away, the researchers from the CGIAR program on Water, Land and Ecosystems and the International Water Management Institute stipulate that at least 1.1 million cases of malaria annually can be directly linked to the presence of dams.

Stagnant waters

Malaria is transmitted by the Anopheles mosquito, which breeds in stagnant or slow-moving waters.

Reservoirs — the artificial lakes created by dams — offer conditions similar to those found by the insect in its habitats, consisting of natural lakes, ponds, wetlands and other water bodies, and thus increasing its chances of breeding.

While the number of infections attributed to dams in the study is a small fraction of the estimated annual 174 million cases in sub-Saharan Africa, the researches believe that is "unethical" that people living close to dams pay the price of that development through increased suffering and, in extreme cases, loss of life.

Over half a million people die from malaria each year, with up to 90% of these deaths occurring in in the sub-Saharan region.


Source: CNN (link opens in a new window)

Health Care
infectious diseases